Thursday, July 01, 2021

Of the Supreme Court, a 3-3-3 balance, and the law of diminishing rhetorical concerns

I have been reading an interesting piece in The Economist magazine about the United States Supreme Court eight months after the newest Supreme Court Justice was appointed on the nomination of Donald Trump.

They argue that, far from developing a 6:3 majority for the extreme Conservative point of view, the current court is developing into three equal blocks of three justices - three hardline conservatives, three liberals (in the US sense of the word, not the British one) and three moderate Conservatives. You can read the argument here.

And, of course, the irony is that the three moderates are the three Justices whose appointments were opposed most hysterically by the US left: e.g. Chief Justice John Roberts whose appointment was supposed to send America into full-on "Handmaid's Tale" territory, Justice Kavenagh whose appointment attracted een more opposition, and Amy Coney Barratt whose nomination attracted such hostility that a normally sane commentator on my Facebook page suggested that her appointment could lead to civil war. 

(Some of Trump's other actions did get closer to that than I liked. But not his judicial appointments.)

I think this illustrates a position which you could refer to as the law of diminishing rhetorical returns. The more vehemently the opponents of an appointment or measure denounce it, the more careful scrutiny should be applied to their arguments. Because it seems to me that for every occasion that outrage and hysteria are directed against a policy or person for good reasons, there are two when people get hysterical because they sense that they are losing the argument and seek to make up for poor logic with extreme language.

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